Ceriwyn stuffed The Treatise of the Forgotten into her pack. It made it significantly heavier, but well worth the weight. She tucked the Properties of Potions under her arm as she started to wrap her cloak around herself. The guardian had come down and told her that she could only take two books away from the sanctuary, or he would make sure she could never leave.
"Protect the knowledge," he had said. The death in his voice made Ceri shiver just remembering it.
What do you want Cormac? She could tell there was deep worry in his voice. Even if the hunters were sidetracked, and survived, she still had stayed too long in one place and she had to get away.
The large one with the blue tattoos has been poisoned by the manticore. He managed to kill them, but the rush has made the poison flow faster in his blood. Ceri paused in her work. She grit her teeth and hardened her face.
Good, then that's one problem solved.
You don't seriously think that do you Ceriwyn? The girl I know wouldn't just let someone, anyone, die. Otherwise, I would still be injured, slowly dying in a bush and eventually eaten.
No one should suffer from manticore poisoning. Ceri knew all too well the effects of the poison. She picked up her candle and headed to the small doorway.
And additional to the dreams you had me bring, he isn't having a good time. She trudged through the dark tunnel, head down.
He's hunting me, why would I even want to save him?
I never said save him.
He continued, The man's honor-bound. If you save his life he may well spare yours."
It would make sense for a normal man, but most hunters such as this don't have honor. After he woke up he would more than likely continue hunting me, rape me then slit my throat. Ceri was nearer to the end of the dirt corridor, she could see the stairs.
You have in your hands a way of saving him, and still be able to get away. Ceri gripped the Potion tome tightly. You know passion flower will keep him down for a while, long enough to put some distance. And you also know that if they're smart, they won't try to move for a while.
Cormac's coaxing was starting to get to her. Ceri was never one to just leave someone suffering
Damn you, she repeated.
Soft, white flakes fell from the sky, clinging to Ceri's cloak and pants. The snow nearly up to her knees, which made it difficult to hide her tracks. Cormac had come and met her almost half way, leading her to where the man lay dying.
"How much farther and how much time do you think we have?" He rested on her shoulder, beneath her hood rubbing against her face occasionally.
Not very long, and we're almost there. Ceri clutched her book to her chest, stepping over a freshly fallen tree.
"How in the world am I to know where he is? By now he'd be covered completely in snow," Cormac nudged her cheek and said, I know where he is. The stink of death is strong with him. Watch where you step.
"Oh," Ceri tentatively walked forward, even more slowly. Soon she came across two large lumps of snow.
"Spirits, is he this big?" she brushed off some of the snow, finding thick fur, matted with blood. Those are the manticores, so that means he's around here somewhere. Cormac hopped from her shoulder and glided down to the ground.
The light was fading fast as she attempted to clear the small glade. Scooping snow with her hands to the sides.
Finally, she came across a boot. Further excavation revealed a very large, broad shouldered man, lying on his side facing away from Ceri. Her heart pounded in her chest. It was almost too dark to see. She stood up and began to make a small makeshift fire pit. Pulling dry kindling from her bag, she lit it. The fire slowly ate away at what Ceri fed it.
She went back over to where the man was laying. Ceri grunted with the effort of dragging him closer to the fire, his heart pounding faster than a horse. She crawled around him on her knees, inspecting him, avoiding looking at his face. Ceri rubbed his hands, feet and arms vigorously to help warm them, trickling in some magic through her hands to his to slow the poison somewhat, at least until she can get him strong enough for real treatment. His limbs were tough, not just from the muscle but also from the blue eagle feather tattoos that covered his whole body, aside from his face.
The heat of the fire had melted the surrounding snow. Ceri silently prayed that the other brother wouldn't see the light and come running.
Ceri gently pulled from her pack a golden chain with a tear drop sapphire hanging from it. She set it around her head, the jewel resting on her forehead. The stone itself was magical and helped magnify her power. She flipped through the pages of her two books, searching for a cure to manticore poison and other spells to aid her.
"Cormac," she called, "Could you go back to the Mother Tree and see if you can find," she trailed off, staring hard at the crumpled page, "Acacia, citronella, and passion flower, please?"
Where the hell am I gonna find the herb 'please'? Ceri scoffed at his sarcasm.
"Do you want him to live or not?" Cormac squawked at her and flew off. Finding where the manticore poison had gotten in him, she was surprised to see that the cut was so small on his leg. Ceri prodded at it, opening it slightly. She let it bleed out for a moment while she got her jar of yellow paste. Spreading it, she couldn't believe that she was saving the man who wanted to kill her.
She gathered her courage and tilted his head towards the fire. Dried blood covered the back of his head, making his dark curly hair stiff to the touch, and a large bump clearly bulged from the base of his skull. His face revealed by the firelight nearly took her breathe away.
Ceri could tell from the hard lines in his face that his features were used to being tight and tough. Although his body was slick with sweat, he seemed calm and almost serene. Only a slight tremor in his hands and his flushed cheeks would have been able to tell you he wasn't well. Ceri licked her lips as she placed her fingers on his temples. A healing technique she had roughly translated from The Treatise of the Forgotten she had decided to try out.
Allowing herself to become one with him, her mind and soul mixed with his. At first, it felt like flowing through memory, which was exactly was she was doing. Vast plains stretched out before her and warmth tingled her fingers. Five other men with similar features to the man's beneath her on the largest horses she had ever seen. Ceri could feel the thump of the hooves reverberate through her chest. Feelings of contentment and joy made her light headed. A beautiful girl danced to music she couldn't hear, her hair and fine skirts flying as she spun and smiled.
It was like a wall of fiery pain that hit her like thunder with no sound. Ceri's breathes came in short gasps as awful images passed before her mind's eye. Overwhelming feelings of loneliness and failure filled her. The young woman lay before her with gorgeous brunette hair and eyes that switched from brown to green and back again. Her vision went red rimmed and fuzzy as the girl reached out to her, no longer smiling.
Ceri pushed herself deeper, tears flowing freely down her cheeks, dripping onto the tormented man beneath her. More images forced themselves on her. Ceri cried out while a large, faceless man struck her repeatedly. She knew it wasn't truly happening to her, but Ceri couldn't help her sobs. Going farther into his subconscious, her entire body shook with the effort.
At last, she had penetrated his core, relief washed over her. Ceri's eyes were closed, but she could see the light lines flowing to the man's center. All the lines were different pastel colors and were tied together in knots in various places. The pain she had had felt like a distant memory. She gently touched all the strings, feeling for the correct one.
Ceri wasn't sure how she would know which one she needed to heal. The book never said, so she guessed she would just know it when she found it. She followed the lights to the very center, where a large ball floated before Ceri.
The lines were warm to the touch as she gently untangled each string.
Ceriwyn's eyes popped open. Her left hip and shoulder had become numb from her non moving weight. She couldn't tell how long she had been unconscious. Turning her head around, she saw that the fire hadn't died significantly, so she guessed not for long, maybe not even an hour. Ceri glanced around herself and soon realized that she had been curled up beside the burly man. Her cheeks flushed red as she scrambled up onto her knees.
The man didn't move at all, only the steady up and down of his barrel chest. Ceri slowly let out her breath through her mouth, making a small cloud in front of her. She crawled back to his side and checked his hands and head. The goose egg on his skull was gone and his hands weren't trembling. His breathing was even and his heart beat regularly.
Should I leave you two alone? Ceri looked up and found Cormac resting on a branch with a couple of herbs in his beak.
"Took you long enough," she said, ignoring him. He fluttered down next to her and dropped the plants in her hands, "Thank you." He look at her quizzically.
I'm guessing he's healed?
Ceri nodded, "Yes." She pulled out a mortar and pestle from her pack. Crushing the herbs into fine powder, she swept them into a small vial. Cormac's feathers suddenly puffed up and went stiff.
I think someone's coming. Ceri paused in her work and listened. She only just barely noticed something yelling in the distance. Goosebumps raced up her arms as it ever so slowly got louder and closer.
She poured the rest of the herbs into the glass and corked it shut. Ceri pressed it into the sleeping man's hand as she gathered her things. Time was rapidly running out, for the noisy brother would see the light of the fire at any moment now.
Ceri pulled her pack's draw strings closed and used her cloak to sweep away her tracks away from the small grove.